The Member of Parliament for Buhera South Joseph Chinotimba says Birchenough Bridge, a single-arch suspension bridge on the Save River completed in 1935, should be declared a tourist attraction and people should pay for using it and taking pictures.
The bridge which was the third longest single-arch suspension bridge in the world at the time was designed by Ralph Freeman who also designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi said the bridge needed to be made part of a package especially with the diamond fields close by. There was also need to build accommodation for the tourists.
“It is a good question but it needs to be complemented with what is taking place in Manicaland so that they can stay for a longer period. In tourism we have what is called 3Gs, that is, get them in, get their money and get them out. If we are able to get that concept, especially when we talk about ‘get their money’, that is where the packaging is what gave Birchenough and other areas such things as ecotourism et cetera,” Mzembi said.
The minister said as for charges to use the bridge that was the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport which could put up a toll gate.
Q & A
* MR. CHINOTIMBA: My question to the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry is, Zimbabwe is losing millions of dollars through Birchenough Bridge, and there are people who come from South Africa and Europe as tourists to admire that bridge. They even take photos without any form of payment. I want the Minister to clarify when this anomaly will be addressed so that Birchenough Bridge becomes a tourist attraction that brings in money to the Government’s coffers?
* THE MINISTER OF TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY (ENG. MZEMBI): I want to thank Hon. Chinotimba for the question and would like to respond by saying, for us to start earning funds from Birchenough Bridge from tourists. We need to build adequate accommodation in the area, for it to be more effective, we would want people who pass through Birchenough Bridge who go to Manicaland to see diamond fields. We need to take the issue of diamonds as a tourist issue, what we call mining tourism.
If you visit Botswana as a tourist, your visit is not complete without visiting the diamond mines from the mining to value addition up until they get to the jewellery shop. We see Birchenough Bridge as a route to Manicaland to the mining town of diamonds. When tourists are coming back from Manicaland, they stop at Birchenough Bridge to take photos but what we want is to build lodges and hotels. Tourism has to do with tourist attraction and also the protection of the tourists. Therefore, we need to put in place facilities that will ensure that tourists stay in the area.
It is a good question but it needs to be complemented with what is taking place in Manicaland so that they can stay for a longer period. In tourism we have what is called 3Gs, that is, get them in, get their money and get them out. If we are able to get that concept, especially when we talk about ‘get their money’, that is where the packaging is what gave Birchenough and other areas such things as ecotourism et cetera. That should complement other activities in Manicaland so that people can stay there. They will pay their tithes as they pass through Birchenough Bridge. I think that question should also be addressed to the Minister of Transport to ensure that tolling should be done. No-one should pass through Birchenough Bridge without paying toll fees. I thank you.
*MR. CHINOTIMBA: Mr. Speaker Sir, is the Minister saying that his Ministry should mine the diamonds or he is talking about the issue of chalets or lodges. How can that be done to ensure that the people with the resources are able to build such infrastructure? His Ministry is responsible for tourism. When is it going to be done in order for us to realise the development of our area than to lose money that can be used to get medication from elsewhere. Thank you.
ENG. MZEMBI: Mr. Speaker Sir, I will use Hon. Chinotimba’s question to answer a broader challenge in our national tourism and that is the aspect of national tourism master planning. However, to get to the master plan, you must have regional spatial plans that identify regions and products that are synonymous with each region. Let me assure Hon. Chinotimba that Birchenough Bridge cannot stand alone in Manicaland and that is why I was referring to Manicaland because we see it as a region and Birchenough Bridge, being just one of the products. The future of that product will integrate activities like mining, extraction and value addition leading up to the jewellery industry. It will integrate into itself issues around eco-agricultural tourism. It will integrate agricultural tourism and issues relating to Chisumbanje and ethanol extraction.
In other words, when a visitor comes to Manicaland, he does not just focus on Birchenough Bridge. He is taken through the entire product chain so that he can stay longer and spend more in the region of Manicaland. Having said that, I also alluded to the fact that in order for us to extract direct income from Birchenough Bridge, we must look at bridge tolling so that whoever crosses through that bridge is able to deposit some income within the area that can be hived off a percentage of it to develop areas immediately surrounding Birchenough Bridge. This could be lodge development, tour and travel business and other related activities. The answer lies in the regional spatial plan of Manicaland and we will be shortly visiting the province to walk through the leadership of that province, including Hon. Chinotimba through this product and what we intend doing for the area. However, this question is very pertinent and I am grateful for him having raised it up. I thank you.